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Chicago State University College of Pharmacy
The Importance of Leadership and Involvement in Pharmacy School

by Kristine Manlimos, P4

As graduation approaches, I reflect on how much I have matured as a student pharmacist. I can recall during my P1 year starting the program at CSU with both fear and motivation. I was timid, shy, and uncertain of what the future had in store for me. Prior to pharmacy school, I worked at a community pharmacy and this was what I thought I had in mind for my own career path after I finished school. During my undergraduate years, I worked for Oregon State University’s Student Leadership and Involvement, a university department which supports students and student groups by providing opportunities for leadership development and community involvement on campus. I worked directly with student organizations for event planning and leadership workshops. When I started pharmacy school, I did not think I wanted to be involved with organizations and wanted to focus solely on my studies.

As a curious P1 student, I attended a SSHP meeting and learned about post-graduate residency training. I did not think this career path was for me at the time, but I was happy that I was able to learn about what other options and areas of practice were available to me as a future pharmacist. As time progressed, I began to interact with other students outside of CSU and I rediscovered my inner passion for leadership and involvement once again. At that point, I became actively involved with various professional student organizations and participated in activities such as volunteering at health fairs to provide health screenings to underserved populations.

During my P3 year, I was still uncertain if residency was for me. I knew that applying for a residency position would be a very competitive process and I did not know if I that was what I wanted to pursue. I contemplated between a community and inpatient residency and wondered where I would fit best. I kept an open mind going into my APPE rotations and started having interests in areas beyond community pharmacy (which was shocking for me). It was then that I knew I wanted to have a career as an ambulatory care pharmacist. I enjoyed being able to meet with patients to review their medications, provide education, and to demonstrate to them how to use medication devices. I started researching residency programs that offered ambulatory care experiences. While waiting for interview invitations, I discovered I had more interests in the inpatient setting, specifically pediatrics and emergency medicine. It was an exciting time for me to realize the different areas I could potentially specialize in with PGY2 residency training. 

The residency search and match process can initially be confusing and overwhelming. Our SSHP chapter holds an annual Residency Information Series, where various topics regarding residency are addressed and it concludes with a Residency Panel that consists of current residents and residency program directors. I have gained insight both at these events and at professional conferences. I knew I had to be prepared for the rigorous process, whether I would be able to match to a program or not.

Earlier this year, I was invited as a guest speaker for an organization that I co-founded, CSU--COP’s Student Asian Pharmacists Association. I was invited to talk about the importance of leadership and involvement in pharmacy school. During this presentation, I not only wanted to focus on the importance of organizational involvement to obtain a residency position, but also to gain invaluable experiences of patient care outside of pharmacy school requirements. Even if one does not want to pursue a residency, being involved in organizations (even if just volunteering for events) can provide experiences and relationships that help one grow as a student pharmacist. When I was preparing for my presentation, I asked for insight from my colleagues from other schools how their involvement helped mold them into better student pharmacists. Moreover, a few of my classmates gave me input as they reflected on their past experiences. Many of them regret not being as involved as they could have been, since they have witnessed the benefits in those who were actively involved.

My parting advice for fellow student pharmacists who may be unsure of what career path to choose, I urge you to become involved in an organization at your campus. It can help you learn something about yourself as well as provide networking opportunities with colleagues within and outside your school.

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